Kelly Zhou

To the Headmaster of the 23rd Celestial Academy

Dear Seraph,

Not long ago, in the southerly regions of Limbo, one of our patrols apprehended a demonic courier who carried certain letters pertaining to the case of Pamela. These letters, it seems, are a small part of a long correspondence between a junior demon named Impwit — tasked with tempting Pamela — and the demonic general Ashskin, of whom you have no doubt heard. They provide an intimate, surprising and hitherto unexamined perspective on Pamela’s fall from grace; considering this, and also considering the special place Pamela has long held in angelic scholarly inquiry, I ordered that copies be made immediately; these have been sent to all the major celestial universities and the originals to the Court of Records for safekeeping.

It is my hope that these letters, repugnant though they are, will prove useful to us in our eternal war against the fallen. That Pamela — a maid once so virtuous, unblemished and admirable — should now burn far below, that all her virtues should have been outweighed in the final judgement by a single vice — her pride — why, this is a source of regret for all spirits and a wellspring of everlasting shame for those cherubs entrusted with safeguarding her virtue! The means by which Ashskin outmaneuvered our own forces were devious; I am personally convinced that these letters will reward the most meticulous inspection. It goes without saying that both demons lie repeatedly.

Yours in Faith,

Ariel, Sub-lieutenant of the Seventh Flight

 

My Dear Impwit,

I am hardly surprised by the failures you recount in your most recent letter. Your subject’s recent change in circumstance — the death of her mistress — is certainly auspicious; her new master is, from our perspective, a great improvement over her old. But why have you jumped at the chance to tempt her by lust? Have you forgotten her upbringing? Have you forgotten her parents, who even now (so my colleagues inform me) write her a letter in which they implore her to protect her chastity? It would have been a delicate matter, even for an experienced tempter, to make this Pamela unchaste; it might have taken months, perhaps years, to cultivate an unruly affection within her; and in any event, your ham-handed attempt to inspire immediate passion has almost certainly precluded that path. In the future, she will be doubly wary of any overtures from her master.

Remember this, my dear Impwit, and be more patient next time.

Do not imagine all is lost. There is still hope, for thinking that she knows where the true danger lies, your Pamela will be less wary of other temptations. This gives you an opportunity. Yes, encourage her to become fixated on her master, let her chastity occupy all her thoughts. I have colleagues in France who have devised a marvelous euphemism: they encourage the young women in their care to refer to chastity simply as “virtue,” and (with that one word!) they convince their subjects that humility, kindness, charity, and all the others are mere lesser virtues, subordinate to the primary. Let your Pamela become one of these women. Encourage her to call chastity her virtue, her innocence, her honesty, her jewel, her soul. Make her think that she is worthless without it. Let her believe that if her master took it from her, even if it were against her will, she would immediately lose all goodness and be damned irrevocably.

Oh, and Impwit — take care that she does not scrutinize these ideas with any particular care. You should not find this hard; after all, you are merely trying to convince her to believe what most of her contemporaries do. But if she were to ever consider the implications — if she were, for example, to consider that any soul which can be damned against its will must be a soul without free will — then she would immediately begin to see that her new beliefs contradict the basic tenets of Christianity. Our goal, as always, is to keep our subjects from inspecting their beliefs too closely.

Yours in Conspiracy,

Ashskin

 

Dear Ashskin,

Where would I be without you? I’ve taken your advice and dialed back on the lust. You’re right: Pamela’s absolutely terrified of losing her virginity. Just read this — I peeked over her shoulder in the morning and saw it in one of her letters: “… for I think, when one of our Sex finds she is attempted, it is an Encouragement to a Person to proceed, if one puts one’s self in the Way of it, when one can help it, and it shews one can forgive what in short ought not to be forgiven.”

Pretty weighty stuff, don’t you think? I’ll admit, it took some sly words … some undercover tempting … but, as you can see from her letter, I’ve gotten this girl to think that if Mr. B — rapes her, it’ll be her own fault! Just because she’s “in his way.” What was it you said before — something about being damned against your will?

Anyway, things are coming along just fine over here. I just wish that stupid Mrs. Jervis would stop interfering with everything!

Thanks,

Impwit

 

My Dear Impwit,

I must confess to some bafflement over your letter. So you have succeeded in fixing Pamela’s attention on her chastity. What else? How have you exploited her closed-mindedness — what other temptations have you brought before her? How have you brought her closer to the fires? I worry, Impwit, if Pamela were to die today, you may be sure her soul would be saved.

There are several ways we might remedy this … unfortunate situation. I am particularly intrigued by Pamela’s letter-writing habit. I have obtained copies of some of her letters to her parents from my colleagues, and what I have seen so far is very promising. She justifies herself repeatedly. She calls attention to her virtues, her beauty. She dwells at length on the slights others have given her. She writes so regularly, and at such inconceivable length! Such a wellspring of egotism and pride in those letters! It warms my heart; with luck, it will burn her soul.

Impulsive letter writing, like impulsive journaling, is a dangerous habit — but, more often than not, it works to our advantage. A letter or a journal can permit sincere introspection; this, as I have already mentioned, is a thing we must discourage. But it can also be (and more often is) a means of constructing a fictitious self — of writing about the person one wants to be rather than the person one is. This encourages a delightfully warped self-image. One of my current subjects, a plumber named Matthew, beats his wife at least once a day and has not spoken with either of his young children in the past week. But if you were to read his journal, then you would see a portrait of an entirely different Matthew: a Matthew who sacrifices everything for his family, who loves his wife with all his heart and gets nothing in return. He does not lie, exactly, when he writes — but I encourage him never to challenge himself, to focus on only his own perspective: to use his journal for “healthy catharsis,” as the psychiatrists put it. I have managed affairs so carefully in this man’s case that he no longer believes in the real Matthew. When he thinks of himself, he thinks instinctively of the Matthew described in his journal.

Your Pamela, I think, writes letters because she has no other way to assert her individuality. She is a 15-year-old girl separated from her parents, pursued by her master, confined by her class. She has a wellspring of intelligence and fire within her — more than anyone is willing to permit in a serving wench — more, even, than she is willing to permit in herself. She is silenced, afraid, isolated; the only voice she has in the world is the one conveyed in correspondence. If she stopped writing, the greater part of her would die.

And so you see what a remarkable opportunity you have in this case — what power you will have over this girl, if you can only control what she puts into the letters. Make her written voice entirely disconnected from her actual voice; see to it that the fictitious Pamela — the girl she writes about — has as little in common with the real Pamela as possible. You do not need to make her lie … only encourage her to omit liberally, to choose details selectively — emphasizing virtues, glossing over vices, and so on — as I have done with my subject. Encourage her to write more frequently: several times a day, if possible. Make her wholly dependent on the letters.

Yours in Conspiracy,

Ashskin

P. S.  Before composing future letters of your own, I advise you to peruse the latest edition of the Infernal Manual of Style — particularly the sections dealing with appropriate use of contractions and colloquialisms. I believe you will find that neither is appropriate in formal correspondence with a senior officer of the demonic legion.

 

Dear Ashskin,

Thanks for the tips. I’m kind of busy right now; will go over the Infernal Manual of Style later. In the meantime, progress report. Pamela’s making herself sound awfully perfect in her letters, just the way you said she should be doing. Only a few days ago, there was this big party at Mr. B—’s house, one of the guests said she was pretty and just listen to what she puts into the letter to her parents! “… Well Mr. B—,” she writes, quoting the guest, “we understand that you have a Servant-maid, who is the Greatest Beauty in the Country.”

There is one thing, though, that’s got me uneasy. A few days ago, she decided that she didn’t want to keep on wearing those fancy silk clothes Mr. B— gave her, so she went out and bought some cloth and started making shifts and gowns and petticoats, all homespun. In her letters, she keeps on saying that she feels down-to-earth, more humble in that stuff. And, well … we want her to be proud, right? That’s how I’m supposed to get her — using pride? So is all this homespun clothing a problem for us?

Thx,

Impwit

 

My Dear Impwit,

It would seem that I have, once again, overestimated your intelligence. I admit, I am more than a little disappointed: when I suggested that Pamela should be led to believe in the fictional self she creates in her letters, I did not anticipate that you would share her delusion. I have also learned about her “homespun reformation.” I am as far from frightened as possible. On the contrary: nothing else has given me as much hope that we will succeed in damning her.

You think her humble? You think her actually humble because she claims to feel humble? Did you not read my last letter? If she told her parents that she feared she was becoming arrogant, feared she was aloof, feared she spoke disdainfully to the other servants, then you might have cause to fear she was learning humility. Impwit, I ask you to consider how meticulously she describes her raiment in her letters; how long she dwells on her appearance; how careful she is to recount each compliment the guests pay her; how bitterly she takes each of her master’s insults. A country lass can be as vain in a homespun dress as a duchess in her jewels — and Pamela, methinks, is prouder than many queens. Watch and wait; if you handle this right, soon you will catch her in pride; she will dwell at length on her own virtue, will be proud of her modesty, her chastity, even her poverty; and all the while she will think herself humble, will suppose that she can put on humility the way she puts on a gown. How many have we snared this way — through the muddling of outward and inward humility! The former counts for nothing in the final judgement, the latter for everything; and though the old saying is true — that a rich man may pass into heaven as easily as a camel passes through the eye of a needle — yet also many beggars are turned away from the heavenly gates, and some on account of pride.

No … I am convinced that we are beginning to take Pamela firmly in hand. The true difficulty now will be dealing with her master. I have recently received a telegram from high command; Screwtape, the master’s tempter, has encountered some difficulties. It would seem that Mr. B—, desiring to obtain Pamela, has been trying to reform himself, has even begun to repent of his legendary lechery. To think of it! That irredeemable soul — that sure bet — slipping through our fingers and going to Heaven!

We must guard against any possibility of redemption, however slight. We will need to contrive a way of letting Pamela’s master give in to his lust for her — while, at the same time, keeping her enthralled by pride. I will take the issue to counsel and tell you what is decided. Until then, I am of course

Yours in Conspiracy,

Ashskin

P. S.  I have recently learned that a certain novelist (Richards, I think his name is … or perhaps Richardson … I cannot be bothered with keeping track of these mere mortals) has taken an inordinate interest in your subject. It would seem that he, like many of her acquaintances, considers Pamela to be a paragon of virtue — a shining beacon for serving wenches everywhere — and he has become so enraptured that he intends to write a book loosely based upon her experiences. I tell you, Impwit, there is nothing so gullible in the world as one of these human novelists — especially one who considers himself a moral authority. I have recommended to high command that we begin to conscript such writers in our campaign of propaganda against the great Enemy. Screwtape has already taken Richardson into his care. Within a few years, we may hope to see a delightfully blasphemous book celebrating the virtues of your thrice-damned Pamela.